The purpose of this study is to illuminate the motivating factors that have driven so many young people to join the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate justice organization based in the United States that has staked its collective identity on the claim that it represents an insurgent political generation. According to the unequivocal consensus of scientists around the world, climate change poses an existential threat to human civilization, and its most devastating effects are scheduled to occur within the average lifetime of today’s younger generations. However, many effects have already devastated communities of the globally dispossessed in disproportionate fashion. In this study, the Sunrise Movement’s meteoric rise to prominence in recent years is analyzed, the strengths and weaknesses of the organization are identified, and a list of solutions to the identified weaknesses is presented.

Through methods of participant observation, surveys, and access to an archival source, this study platforms the personal experiences of Sunrise Movement participants and analyzes their feedback through a sociological framework consistent with other social movement scholarship. Areas that are explored include methods used to facilitate feelings of solidarity within the organization, as well as social and economic barriers to inclusion. Finally, because the Sunrise Movement is just one of many emergent climate justice organizations with similar structures, philosophies, methods, and demographic makeups, this study will serve as a model through which to understand this new chapter of the environmental movement as a whole.


Matsuzawa, Setsuko


Sociology and Anthropology


Politics and Social Change


Environmental Justice, Political Generations, Social Movements, Environmental Movement

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2020 Benjamin J. Bridgman